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Document release could chill quality improvement
If providers worry that The Joint Commission (TJC) will release their accreditation records to prosecutors, they may become reluctant to share sensitive information with the accrediting body, cautions Vickie Patterson, an associate director in the Atlanta office of Protiviti, a risk consulting firm.
She says the federal government is focusing much more on health care investigations now, and she suspects TJC and other accrediting bodies may be forced to release records more often in the future.
"In the growing trend of transparency in health care operations, this is just another example of quality issues and remediation being made available to the public," she says. "One problem is that this exposure creates is that hospitals may see a decrease in reporting and documenting of errors and corrective actions. The accreditation process initially was created to be educational for the organization, in addition to creating a certification process. The Joint Commission has continually tried to create an environment where the facilities felt they could learn and improve from the accreditation process, rather than it being punitive. Having records made available for investigations and prosecutions could result in organizations being less open and hindering the accreditation process."
Even though it is uncommon for accreditation records to be released, Patterson says providers are increasingly aware of the possibility, and she fears it will create a reluctance to fully report quality issues.
"My concern is that facilities may be less apt to report, because it can be held against them," she says. "Risk managers have to reinforce the message that you want full reporting and you have to be diligent about responding fully and quickly to any issues. You need to be able to show that when you were made aware of it, you addressed it immediately and then monitored for any recurrence."
For more information about the effects of disclosing accreditation records, contact:
Vickie Patterson, Associate Director, Protiviti, Atlanta. Telephone: (404) 926-4300. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.